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Quinoa and Butternut Squash Salad

Simple, hearty and healthy, Quinoa and Butternut Squash Salad with spinach, cranberries and toasted sesame seeds is a delicious side or vegetarian meal.

The colors are beautiful, making it a perfect dish for a buffet table, holiday (including Passover) or dinner party. Get creative or use what you have on hand.

Quinoa and Glazed Butternut Squash salad

The recipe serves 4 good size main portions, but if you are serving the salad with a substantial protein, it can be stretched to 6.

Try serving the quinoa butternut squash salad with maple-balsamic rainbow trout, grilled BBQ chicken, salmon stuffed with lemon ricotta or sous vide flank steak.  Or add some sliced grilled marinated chicken  or crispy tofu cubes on top to make it a more substantial main dish. Here is a recipe on how to bake or pan fry tofu cubes (ignore the peanut sauce part).

Tailor To Your Taste


    • Substitute sweet potatoes for the squash. They will have more calories and carbs, but higher fiber and protein.
    • Add red peppers to roast along with the butternut squash.
    • Try chopped kale instead of baby spinach. Just remove ribs, chop and massage to soften. A peppery arugula would work well too.


    • Sprinkle cinnamon and/or cumin on the squash before roasting.
    • Use basil or rosemary instead of thyme.


    • Try adding goat cheese , halved cherry tomatoes, chopped green onions or chives
    • Feel free to use any nuts or seeds for crunch instead of sesame seeds. Roasted pecans, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pepitas are all good choices.
    • Increase the balsamic vinegar (good quality) or drizzle extra maple syrup, honey or balsamic reduction.
    • Pass with lemon wedges


  • Buy pre-peeled and pre-cut butternut squash. I do.
  • Buy pre-washed and dried baby spinach.

Make Ahead 

  • One nice thing about this salad it that it can be made ahead, earlier in the day.  Just let it sit on the counter while the flavors blend and serve it when you’re ready.

Other easy butternut squash recipes you might like

Butternut Squash in pan ready to roast

Glazed Butternut Squash in pan

sesame seeds toasting in pan

Quinoa and Butternut Squash salad in white serving bowl garnished with sesame seeds

close up of quinoa and butternut squash salad in a serving bowl p2

quinoa butternut squash salad on plate
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Quinoa and Glazed Butternut Squash Salad

Simple, hearty and healthy, Quinoa and Glazed Butternut Squash salad with spinach, cranberries and toasted sesame seeds is a delicious vegetarian main dish or side.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Main Vegetarian dish, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 sides (or 4 mains)


Butternut squash

  • 3/4 pound butternut squash, peeled, cut in 1 inch chunks (about 400g)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 2/3 cup water with 1/2 tsp salt added


  • 2 tablespoon olive oil (or more if needed)
  • 1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar (or more to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Other salad ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach (about 3 large handfuls)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (can substitute raisins or dried currants)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds Note 1
  • Optional garnishes: chopped roasted nuts, crumbled goat cheese, chopped green onions or chives, halved cherry tomatoes, drizzle of honey or maple syrup, squeeze of lemon, balsamic reduction drizzle


  • Preheat oven to 425F. Line a pan with parchment. Or use foil and spray it with oil.
  • ROAST BUTTERNUT SQUASH: Toss butternut squash with oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a bowl. Place squash in single layer on pan. (Set bowl aside to mix assembled salad later). Roast squash for 20-30 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized, tossing or flipping over half way through. Lately, I've been cranking the heat to 450F for the last 5-10 minutes to brown the squash more. Remove from oven and sprinkle with thyme.
  • MAKE QUINOA: (while squash is roasting). Rinse quinoa in a mesh strainer. Place in medium pot with 1 2/3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. and let the quinoa cool a bit. Add spinach to the warm quinoa and mix. Spinach will wilt. If you prefer to leave the spinach more crisp, let quinoa cool a bit first.
  • MAKE DRESSING: Put all dressing ingredients in a cup. Whisk to blend.
  • ASSEMBLE AND SERVE: In large bowl, combine quinoa-spinach mixture, cranberries, butternut squash and dressing. Gently mix together. Taste and adjust seasonings. Scoop into serving bowl. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and other optional garnishes as desired.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

To Toast Sesame Seeds: Place seeds in a dry pan over medium heat. Shake pan every minute or two for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool. 
Make Ahead: This salad can be made ahead, earlier in the day.  Just let it sit on the counter while the flavors blend and serve it when you're ready.
Nutrition value estimates do not include optional garnishes. 


Calories: 216kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 408mg | Potassium: 456mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 7489IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 2mg
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If you're looking for a bold, colorful, earthy, nutritious, textured side dish, this Spinach Quinoa Salad with beets might just fit the bill. It's mixed with apple and avocado, then dressed with a light honey Dijon dressing for great flavors and a beautiful presentation. 
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This recipe, originally published in 2016, has been updated with new information and images. 

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